About us

If we’re going to beat AIDS, we can’t afford to avoid sensitive conversations, and we can’t fail to reach the people who are at the highest risk. Few countries provide prevention services to these groups, and some take actions that, far from discouraging risky behaviour, drive people into the shadows.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (AIDS 2012)

Rainbow-Ethiopia Health and Human Rights Initiative

Rainbow-Ethiopia is a National HIV Program on Health AND Rights for Key Populations like LGBT people and Sex workers, Rainbow-Ethiopia works towards Ethiopia where there is no hostility against homosexuality, where a sex worker doesn’t need to fear any violence from clients nor from the police. Not only because it is important that their human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled, but also because it is an essential precondition to improve their health.

Rainbow-Ethiopia – HIV/AIDS Prevention and LGBT Human Rights Advocacy Program which is the pioneer volunteer driven Community Based Sexual Health and Psycho-social programs to address the health and health related needs of most at risk and marginalized Men’s, particularly men who have sex with men (MSM) who are classified globally as one of the Most at risk populations in relation to HIV/AIDS and STI Vulnerability, and who are highly vulnerable, little researched and under-served segment of the general key populations (MARPs) in Ethiopian context.

Our program target different subcategories of MSM including Youth, Male Sex Workers, Married Men and other wide range of sexual and gender identities including, gay, bisexual or heterosexual who come from various socio-cultural contexts.

Despite the wide spread homophobia and lack of political will; we are aggressively working to promote/ mainstream the idea of social inclusion and empowerment of LGBTI people and sex workers who are the most marginalized and totally neglected segment of the larger poverty stricken Ethiopian society; we are combating the epidemic by creating a community and networks to set up interactive peer group education system ,risk behaviors assessment and reduction and skill building and awareness raising programs in Addis Ababa and other regional capitals of Ethiopia in which the most MSM and Sex workers are assumed to be concentrated.

We are developing HIV policy and advocacy strategies at the local and national levels to challenge legal and political restrictions on MSM and Sex workers to access HIV services to provide a full range of Health and Psycho-social support programs by engaging GFATM, PEPFAR Country Coordinating team, USAID and its implementing partners, FDRE-Ministry of Health, Federal and regional HIV Prevention and Control Offices (HAPCOs), FDRE-Ministry of Justice, law enforcement, other concerned governmental authorities, and media to address stigma and discrimination.

Our vision:

A society where sex workers and LGBT people are (sexually) healthy, have their human rights fully respected and are in control of their livelihoods and help them attain full sexual health and social wellbeing for Men who have sex with men (MSM) in Ethiopia. We works towards an empowered and healthy life for MSM in Ethiopia.
The right to lead a healthy and fulfilling life is universal, but not accessible for all. Sex workers, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and are often stigmatised, socially excluded, have no or limited access to health care, and they are among the poorest in Ethiopian society. As a result, they are disproportionally affected by HIV and AIDS.

Our mission:

Achieving universal access to HIV/STI prevention, treatment, care and support for sex workers, and LGBT people. Sex workers, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and people who use drugs are typically 10-20 times more likely to become infected by HIV while only 8% have access to HIV services. In many countries like Ethiopia there are laws, regulations or policies in place that diminish access to health and legal services for key populations at higher risk.

We are committed to achieving universal access to prevention, to advance the sexual health and rights of MSM and reduce stigma and discrimination aligned with them by creating general awareness with the aim of empowering the MSM community and the society at large, advocating for the rights to good health, access to STI/HIV and AIDS related care and treatment, eradicating inequalities and ensuring dignity and human rights for key populations in Ethiopia.

Communities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people working together to develop effective HIV/AIDS prevention strategies and lobby for protection of human rights.

Communities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people exist in every country around the world, whether we are easily visible or not. In many places, we are engaged in a struggle to secure basic human rights and access to healthcare. Members of LGBT communities often face extreme stigma, discrimination, and violence at the individual, community, and structural level. Not only does this result in human rights violations against LGBT people, it also impedes our access to live-saving HIV services.

5 things you should know about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people

  • Nearly 80 countries currently criminalize homosexuality, with 7 countries including the death sentence for such acts;
  • In low- and middle-income countries, gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) are 19 times more likely to be infected with HIV than members of the general population;
  • Despite an urgent need for intervention, research indicates that less than 10% of gay men and other MSM around the world have access to HIV prevention services;
  • Transgender populations around the world face HIV prevalence rates of between 8% and 68%; very little data exists on access to HIV services among these groups;
  • According to a 2008 analysis, only 1.2% of all HIV prevention funding was targeted toward MSM.

Bridging the Gaps – Working with and for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities by

  • Organizing community empowerment activities;
  • Providing services that meet the specific needs of LGBT;
  • Lobbying and advocating for the protection of LGBT rights to ensure full access to public health care.
This combination is essential to make the fight against HIV/AIDS among LGBT people effective and sustainable.

For the LGBT youth out there who are struggling, who are made to feel inferior, let me say this… God loves you as you are. He wants you to live and to thrive. So please take care of yourself, educate yourself about HIV, protect your partner, honour and cherish them. And when you live your life the way your meant to, in freedom and dignity you put a smile on Gods face.

~Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu~

Our objectives, in broad terms, are:

Rainbow-Ethiopia is committed to:

  • Improve the quality of and access to HIV prevention, treatment, care, support and other services for key populations;
  • Integrate specific services for key populations within the general health system;
  • Strengthen the capacity of grassroots organizations that work on HIV and key populations in Ethiopia;
  • Develop and strengthen a comprehensive and concerted approach on HIV and key populations by our partners.
  • Advocate for equal access of healthcare services for MSM.
  • Improve the human rights of key populations;
  • To identify and develop a referral system for MSM health needs.
  • To create, raise and promote Public awareness about MSM including youth, MSM living with HIV, male sex workers, married men, elder men etc.
  • To use different medium e.g. drama, dance and skits, fliers brochures, newsletters & mass media, to pass messages regarding sexual health and safer sexual practices for the MSM community.
  • Capacity building of members.
  • To offer peer education services to the members
  • To create, plan and manage different support groups for the members.
  • To emphasize life skills, and development of positive attitudes and values.
  • To create and raise security awareness among MSM community.
Rainbow-Ethiopia will gather the efforts of interested and concerned government and non-governmental organizations from in and outside of Ethiopia. All our interventions are based on evidence; are implemented by fully equipped organizations; are monitored; and adjusted accordingly. This again is the basis for the gathering of crucial evidence about the effectiveness and usefulness of key population interventions.

These objectives will be delivered in partnership with relevant international nongovernmental organizations and US government agencies and other UN bodies working on HIV and human rights issues.

The core values of our organization are:

1. Transparency

2. Lateral and vertical accountability

3. Team Work

4. Equity

5. Mutual respect

6. Collective action and responsibility

We work through 5 key population projects in Addis Ababa and four regional capitals of the country namely Adama, Bahir Dar, Hawassa and Mekele. The work that is done on the ground is complemented by our main advocacy project. All our interventions are based on evidence; are implemented by fully equipped organizations; are monitored; and adjusted accordingly. This again is the basis for the gathering of crucial evidence about the effectiveness and usefulness of key population interventions in Ethiopia.

LGBT Voices media project

LGBT Voices media project which feature stories and engage in research and documentary film project, we are working to advance the health, social justice and equality for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) people in Ethiopia, it is also a media affiliate of Rainbow-Ethiopia Health and Human Rights Initiative which is the one and only non-partisan and not affiliated LGBT targeting HIV and Human Rights organization  in Ethiopia.

We strive to keeps you updated on the criminalization of LGBT people, the state and non-state sponsored LGBT human rights abuse and our resistance effort against the criminalization and work to advance general and LGBT rights in Ethiopia , we also cover asylum issues affecting LGBT people in United States Canada, and Europe.

This site is a part of our broad Digital and Social Media Advocacy Campaign which include some of the most commonly used Social Media tools: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and online newsletters to Identify and engage with major international human right, HIV/AIDS and LGBTI human right organizations.

Mercy is a pen name of the blogger who is an exiled Ethiopian Human Rights Defender, Community Organizer, blogger, HIV/AIDS and Social Justice Activist in Ethiopia and Horn of Africa, he is also the co-founder of  Rainbow-Ethiopia Health and Human Rights Initiative which is the one and only LGBTI Human Rights and Health Organization in Ethiopia.

Lack of funding and other resources is threatening the future of our work. Please make a donation and enable us to  keep going and further our endeavor to bring about a real change in the health and human rights of LGBTI people in Ethiopia.

    Thank You!

          Your Support is Greatly Appreciated!

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